An all-Russian final was featured at the 2018 Tashkent Open as the resurgent Margarita Gasparyan went up against youngster and rising star Anastasia Potapova. It was a tale of two extremely different stories for both players, but they came into the final having played doubles together and even reaching the semifinals ultimately.
It was a one-sided and world-class performance put up by the more experienced Russian as Gasparyan stormed towards a commanding 6-2, 6-1 win after just an hour of action. Potapova was too passive and erratic throughout the match, but it was a match well-played by Gasparyan as she was simply firing on all cylinders.
This is Gasparyan’s first WTA title since 2015, while this was Potapova’s second WTA career final in just three months. Gasparyan is slated to return into the top-150 while Potapova is ensured a top-100 debut for the first time in her career.
It was a terrific run from the 17-year-old youngster, who has just one point to defend through the remainder of the year. As such, her new career-high ranking of 94 would almost certainly be enough to secure her a main draw berth at the 2019 Australian Open. Furthermore, this is Potapova’s second WTA career final, having reached her first in July at the Moscow River Cup.
Potapova’s path to the final was extraordinary. She had to battle through the qualifying rounds before coming back from 0-3 down in the final set against Stefanie Voegele in the opening round to triumph. She went on to avenge her Moscow loss against good friend and rival Olga Danilovic, storming into the final with a straightforward 6-2, 6-3 win over Kateryna Kozlova.
Gasparyan went missing in action towards the end of 2016, having been troubled by a series of knee injuries. In just 12 months alone, she underwent three knee surgeries, and the last one was finally successful as she made her quiet return to tennis at the end of 2017. She started the year ranked outside the top-1000 of the rankings, but by working her way up the ladder, the Russian is slowly returning to the biggest stages of the sport.
She had to recover from a 0-4 0-30 deficit against fifth seed Tatjana Maria in the second round before her semifinal opponent Mona Barthel served for the match yesterday. It was a series of excellent comebacks by Gasparyan, who came out of nowhere to claim the title despite starting the week ranked 299th.
Gasparyan storms to the first set
It was surprisingly Gasparyan who settled into the conditions better. The pair had previously met at an ITF event in Russia earlier in this year which Potapova triumphed in, but this time Gasparyan would be looking to exact revenge as she quickly jumped towards a commanding 4-0 lead within a blink of an eye with some ferocious hitting.
Potapova’s counterpunching tennis finally saw some daylight, and she threatened to produce the improbable comeback but Gasparyan held her nerves and fended off a break point in the sixth game. That turned out to be the only break point she would face on a terrific serving day. She eventually served out the opening frame to love, completely outclassing her younger compatriot.
Gasparyan claims the win
Many would have thought that Potapova would make the second set tighter than the first. However, the first set provided Gasparyan with too much confidence while Potapova’s confidence level took a blow from the blowout. She started the second set with another poor service game, being broken in a swift.
Gasparyan seemed unstoppable on serve, losing just two points on serve throughout the second set. There were many dubious line calls which went against both players but it did not affect the quality of play as Gasparyan continued to steamroll her way through baseline rallies, eventually closing out the one-sided 6-2, 6-1 win with Potapova sending in a double-fault on championship point.